USA (MNN) – One Christmas miracle is that God became human. He knew our pains and our struggles. He ate, drank, and understood our emotions.
We read about the incarnation in Scripture and identify with the excitement felt by the shepherds who heard good news of great joy. However, there are many Deaf who struggle to understand how the God who speaks relates to them.
A God Who Understands Sign Language
Marisa Sorenson, International Communication Coordinator for DOOR International, explains that for Deaf people, the Gospel can seem far off. Growing up, other Deaf people would express to Sorenson that they didn’t see God as being for the Deaf.
“They would say, Oh, yeah, well, God is hearing he doesn’t understand sign language. He’s just in churches for hearing people,” Sorenson says. “And I think because of that a lot of Deaf people, you know, they see deaf or hearing individuals as using their voice to pray. They use their voice to preach. They see a Bible that’s in a written language that represents a spoken language that is hearing, right? So, they assume that God doesn’t understand sign language.”
However, Sorenson notes that this is changing in the US as well as in the global Church. Increasingly people are becoming aware of the need for Deaf ministries in both secular and religious areas.
Increasing Deaf Ministry
There are special visits for children with a Santa Claus who understands American Sign Language (ASL). There are colleges and universities offering degree programs in ASL. ASL is offered as an world language available for study. The advancements are encouraging, but perhaps most crucial are increased representation and awareness within the Church.
One example of this is at Finishing the Task 2019. This conference in early December was met with increased enthusiasm by the deaf community. Attendance was up from three people in 2018 to about 50 in 2019.
Sorenson says, “It’s very exciting. It’s a huge movement that’s starting here at Finishing the Task really. Where people, and when I say people I mean leaders, at Finishing the Task were starting to realize the need for Deaf people groups. They’re starting to realize the need to reach these Deaf individuals, to have Bibles in their sign language, to have church planting happen for Deaf worldwide.”
‘God Knows My Language’
One way leaders are able to reach Deaf individuals is through new technologies like video. Now people can record sign language and provide those videos through phones or video chats. This creates new opportunities for bringing the Bible to Deaf communities in ways they can really understand.
Sorenson says, “And so it’s a slow change in mindset to see especially a Bible in sign language. You know Deaf see this and encounter the Word in a different way and they realize, ‘Oh, God knows my language.’ This changes everything for me. It changes everything for Deaf people.”
Just as people who don’t have Scripture written in their language need God’s Word, Deaf people need the Bible. They are dearly loved by God and need someone to bring them the Gospel in a way they can understand.
Partner with DOOR
Sorenson encourages the Church to continue the work of DOOR and other organizations to reach Deaf people.
“We want hearing people to partner with us. We want these people to come alongside us because you know, there’s obviously a lot more hearing than there are Deaf in the world and we need them. Partnership is so crucial. Many different things prayer, I’d say first, always. Also help and come find us. Ask us how you can come alongside us and help. Find other Deaf people and ask them how, you know, you can be of service. It’s so important.”
Header image courtesy of DOOR International.